She Gave What She Could
Around the time that Jesus Christ was born, there was another birth in Israel that the Bible makes no mention of, though the child born that day would later become a well known character in the word of God.
It was a baby girl, and although we have no back-story to shed light on the particulars, I am sure she made one young mother’s face light up with joy, as babies have been doing since the beginning of time.
She was a beautiful child, dark-haired, dark-eyed, innocent and pure as the driven snow.
Now, I’m going to take some liberty and use my imagination here because there is no scripture to draw from, but, having a familiarity with similar people with similar backgrounds, I’m going to say that, though she was a beautiful child, she was born into a home that was not quite so picture-perfect.
This young girl’s mother was not what she should have been. She was not the example she should have been. She didn’t take the time to train her daughter in some of the more important matters of life.
She may have unwittingly trained her for the wrong kind of life.
Her father was practically non-existent, whether the cause was too many hours at work, or too little time for God, I don’t know. But it’s a scenario that has been repeated too many times.
At first, the child was too young to understand what was going on, but as she grew older, she began to learn some things from her parents and from the crowd she ran with that caused her to grow up much too quickly. To be sure, she made her own choices; her environment was not to blame for the direction she went—but it was certainly much easier for her to do wrong than it should have been.
Whatever the details, one thing is certain, the innocence and purity that was once in the eyes of this beautiful little girl at first began to be dimmed, then clouded, and finally extinguished altogether by the lusts and snares of a life of sin.
It happened gradually, but the deceitfulness of sin took its toll. She began by making some wrong choices in friends and where she spent her time. And then one day, she was faced with a decision she never should have been faced with, had she been where she SHOULD have been. It may have been one of survival; it may have been one of covetousness. I don’t know. But she found herself considering an action that just a few years earlier, would have turned her stomach. And yet, she did what she had to do to get what she wanted. I don’t know what she wanted, and she probably forgot what it had been within a few years; but this is where her sin had brought her. And with that, she began a life on the streets selling herself for favors, in the dark alleys of Jerusalem, and the cities round about.
Her parents didn’t intend it; she didn’t start out with such goals or motives, but there she was. No longer an innocent girl, but now a fallen woman.
Time went by. She tried to get out of the life she was in, but it seemed the harder she tried, the greater the pull back in. She remembered a verse of scripture from her childhood, from one of the few times her parents took her to the synagogue. It rang in her mind—“His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” She found out that verse was true.
Years passed. Things went from bad to worse. What started out as exciting or at least something she thought she could handle, now began to seem repulsive. She felt repulsive. She began to lose hope. She even considered taking her own life on a few occasions, only to back out at the last minute.
Then one day, some of the other women in the house that she stayed in came in talking about some strange happenings outside the city down by the Jordan river.
They said a man was down there preaching like the old prophets used to preach. They’d never heard anything like it. The woman pondered what was said. For some reason that she couldn’t explain, she decided she’d go down and check it out. She was immediately jeered by the others. “I just feel like going down, girls” she said solemnly. And so she went anyway.
The others hadn’t lied, she had never heard anything like this. She heard a bronze-skinned, hairy, leather-lunged man that looked like he had just stalked out of the Sinai desert preaching “Repent!!” Prepare the way of the Lord! Get right with God! God’s forgiven you! And if you believe, come down and go under the water! Yeah, you Pharisees too—you bunch ‘a God-forsaken hypocrites! You bunch ‘a snakes in the grass! You need it more than anybody!”
It sounded pretty rough at first, but for some reason she couldn’t resist. She went back the next day. And the next. And after a few times she actually began to listen. What he was saying sounded too good to be true. He preached that there was forgiveness to be found with God. She saw others getting baptized. She wanted to believe and go down, but...something inside her held her back. A voice from some dark corner of her mind said, “You’re just too dirty. Forget it. Look at the rest of these people here; they’re not like you. You can’t be forgiven.” And so she would leave. Unsatisfied, unforgiven, hopeless. And go back to her occupation.
Then one day, something happened that would change this woman’s life forever. One day, as she listened to John preach, he suddenly stopped in the middle of his message, and refused to baptize anyone else. And for a couple of minutes there was an awkward silence, as John stared up into the crowd.
The woman stood on her tiptoes to see what he was staring at, and about that time, a lone figure approached the bank of the river and stood, looking right back at John.
There was another few seconds of silence, and finally John raised a burly hand and pointed a long finger at the man standing before him, and, with a voice that could wake the dead, he cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!!”
The crowd was silent at first, and then they all began to whisper, as the figure John was pointing at descended into the water, and was baptized.
The woman stood still, as the drama of the event came to an end. She continued to stand and watch as all the crowd parted company and returned to their homes for the day. She remained motionless as she watched John and this mysterious Stranger finish their conversation and walk away. Her eyes were fixed on Him, and one consuming thought pounded in her mind, as she watched Jesus Christ move away from her. “Taketh away the sin of the world? This Man can do something about people’s sins?”
She dismissed any chance of forgiveness again, and went home. But when she heard that Jesus had begun preaching like John, she began to go hear Him as well. Her occupation had taught her to be very skeptical of men who were held in positions of high regard; yet, this Man seemed much different. As a matter of fact, He seemed much different than anyone she had ever met.
Every time Jesus came around, she could be found in the crowd; watching, listening.
She saw the blind receive sight, the deaf their hearing. She saw the lame walk, the lepers cleansed, but it was His words...something about His words. They were spoken with such power, and at the same time, such calm reassurance. Such purity. Such hope.
But what could SHE do? She was what she was, and there was no way out for her. Not someone as lost and wretched as she was. Jesus finished his preaching and left with his disciples. She turned and went home again.
And then one day, it all came crashing down around her. The life she was leading, the company she kept, the places she went, the filth and wickedness of her occupation—all at once became too much for her to take any longer.
She had come to the proverbial end of her rope. The next step for her was suicide. The human body is just not built to carry the weight of sin for ever. She was at the threshold of human collapse.
But just at that moment, like a shaft of light piercing into her soul, she heard the news. Jesus had returned to the village.
Outside her window, she had heard some villagers talking about the news of His visit. Almost dazed, she threw open the door and came rushing out, and falling at their feet she begged them to tell her where He was.
She didn’t know what she would do or say.
She simply knew she had to go to Him.
We’ll allow the Bible to finish the story from here: (Luke 7:36-50)
“ And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.  And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,  And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.  Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.  And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.  There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?  Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.  And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.  Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.  My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.  Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.  And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.  And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?  And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”
I want to say just a few things about this woman.
First of all, SHE KNEW WHAT SHE WAS. According to verse 38, she didn’t even try to face Jesus Christ; she could only conscience standing behind Him. She knew she was a sinner. A great sinner. And before you agree and pass judgment on the wickedness of her sins, you need to know that you can take one of two positions in this scene: the place of the Pharisee, or the place of the harlot.
Which one are you? What place will you choose?
According to the scriptures, there is not one sinner who is better than another sinner:
"There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, EXCEPT YE REPENT, YE SHALL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH.” (Luke 13:1-5)
Christ said the publicans and the harlots will make it into the kingdom before any proud, self-righteous hypocrites will (Matt. 21:31).
I don’t know about you, but I’ll gladly take my place with the sinners, where I belong. I’ve had “much forgiven.”
That isn’t all; the second thing I’ll say about this woman is, SHE KNEW WHAT SHE DESERVED.
Notice she was weeping (verse 38). She was crying because she knew what the consequences of her sins should be. The Mosaic Law required the death penalty for the sin of adultery, and she knew it. And so she stood there, speechless. The Book of Romans says “...what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). When you stand before Someone as pure and good as Jesus Christ, that’s the effect it has on you. You have nothing to say and no excuse for your sinfulness. That is, if you know what you are and what you deserve.
The thing that gets me about this woman is that I don’t think she had any expectations when she went to Jesus Christ. She just did the only thing that made sense to her, and ran to the only Man she ever had any respect for.
And thirdly, I’ll give her this—SHE KNEW TO RUN TO JESUS. That’s more than most people know.
“She was just a poor, hysterical woman off the street,” you say. She had a lot more sense than most of the doctors, lawyers, and the political elite in this city! And her moral standards were probably no lower than theirs, either, for that matter.
I witnessed to a lost, religious man one time who tried to tell me the importance of knowing Greek and Hebrew so you could understand the Bible. He didn’t even know Jesus Christ! Imagine trying to understand the Bible without any interest in knowing the Man Christ Jesus or caring that He could cleanse you from your sins! That’s religion for you—a useless waste of time without a relationship with Jesus Christ. Somebody said, “Education without salvation is DAMNATION.” That goes for religious or secular education. The woman in Luke 7 knew better. She knew Who to run to.
This woman knew a lot more than some of you Christians know. You don’t run to Jesus Christ when the trouble comes. You run to the “life coach,” your friends, your parents, a Christian self-help book, or you “google” the answers to your problems.
Maybe you run to the preacher when trouble comes. Many pastors these days have resorted to amateur psychology to put a psychological bandaid on your emotional boo-boos, and try to impress you with “man’s wisdom” (I Cor. 2:4). That’s not what you need. You need Jesus Christ’s help and strength from the word of God. It might be alright to run to the preacher if he’s a Bible-believing preacher, because he’s not going to try solve your problems; he’s going to point you to Jesus Christ.
Maybe you simply run away when trouble comes. Run to the pharmacy and get a bottle of sleeping pills; run to the store and get liquor; run to the corner and buy some weed—whatever “escape” mechanism you prefer. You’re just trying to run away; and you can’t run away from a problem in your own heart or spirit. Jesus Christ says, “Come unto ME, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
This woman knew something else that few Christians ever figure out: SHE KNEW SHE SHOULD GIVE HIM WHAT SHE HAD.
What will you give to Jesus Christ this Christmas season? Instead of worrying about what you’re going to get in a couple of weeks, how about thinking about something you can GIVE.
What can you give to the One Who made and owns the “cattle on a thousand hills”? How about giving what this woman gave. “But I don’t have any ointment, and I don’t even know what ‘alabaster’ is!” That’s not what I’m talking about. In Mark 14, the parallel account of Luke 7, Jesus Christ says of this woman, “She hath done what she COULD.” She did what she could, and gave what she had. Have you given the Lord what you HAVE? “I don’t have much.” You have a heart; have you given Him that? He hasn’t asked for much, but He has asked for your heart. “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways…” (Prov. 23:26). Many Christians have given the Lord their souls for safekeeping, but they hold back their hearts---their love, their commitment, their devotion. He doesn’t need anything material. He wants YOU. All of you. What are you holding back for yourself? If you see yourself for what you truly are (as this woman did), and you see Jesus Christ for Who He truly is, you’ll stop holding things back.
You can give Him GRATITUDE. That’s something He asks for (“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God...”), and doesn’t get many times. This Christmas, after the gifts are all opened and the excitement dies down, maybe it’d be a good idea to get everybody together and pray and thank the Lord for His “unspeakable gift” (II Cor. 9:15). That’s something we can do.
There was something the woman in our passage did NOT know. SHE DID NOT KNOW SHE COULD BE FORGIVEN.
“Thy sins are forgiven” (v47, 48). What great words!
“Thy sins are forgiven.” What powerful words!
“Thy sins are forgiven.” What unexpected words. NOBODY saw that coming. Not Jesus’ disciples, not Simon, not anyone at the table or in the house, and certainly not the woman. She didn’t ask for forgiveness. But that’s what Jesus Christ gave her.
“Thy sins are forgiven.” What necessary words. He’d never met this woman before, but with one look into her eyes, God’s Son knew everything she was feeling and everything she had done—every dark corner of that poor, depraved, abused and sin-sick soul. He knew what she needed when she did not. She didn’t know why she was there, but He did. She was there because she needed something only Jesus Christ could give—forgiveness.
There is no sin that Jesus Christ can’t forgive; no slate he can’t wipe clean. In one place [Matt. 9:13; 12:7], Jesus says to a bunch of self-righteous pharisees, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” In plainer words, “I’d rather deal with folks who are so sinful and dirty that all they can do is cry out for mercy, rather than you bunch of proud, egotistical stuffed shirts who think you can impress me with your outward works, when the truth is you’re filthier on the INSIDE than the publicans and harlots are on the OUTSIDE.” (That’s the “Cochran version” but it’s much more accurate than any modern “updated” translation.)
We have a Saviour Who delights in mercy. He isn’t simply “merciful.” He takes pleasure in being merciful, and looks for opportunities to bestow His mercy. "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.” (Micah 7:18)
Lastly, this woman NEVER GOT OVER WHAT JESUS CHRIST DID FOR HER.
I believe this woman was Mary Magdalene. She’s the first woman mentioned after the scene in our text today (Luke 8:1, 2), but that’s not the only reason why I think It’s her.
I look at Mary Magdalene’s life and actions after her salvation, and I see the life of one who had much forgiven, and who loved much. I see the life of one who never forgot what Jesus Christ did for her that day in the house of Simon. I see the life of one who continued to serve Jesus Christ with no expectation of anything in return, but just because she loved Him and never got over what He did for her.
She can be seen in the crowds following Him, the women ministering to Him.
She followed him all the way to the cross; she went to visit his body at the tomb; and she was the first to see Him right after his resurrection.
“The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him…But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.” (John 20:1,2; 11-18)
“Don’t touch me yet Mary.” She was already on her way to grab him by His feet, and wash them with her tears again.
Who was this woman? A harlot? Not anymore.
Demon Possessed? No longer.
Was she Jesus’ wife? No; that’s just fiction produced by reprobates trying to sell books and movies.
She was a great sinner, who found a great Saviour, and great forgiveness. She was one who “loved much,” for she’d been forgiven much.
How much do you love Him?
Enough to do “what you could”?
Then what will you give Him this Christmas?